Advertisement

North Korea working hard to restore diplomacy, ex-diplomat says

North Korea working hard to restore diplomacy, ex-diplomat says
North Korea has not held talks with the United States since 2019, but Pyongyang could be interested in restarting negotiations, according to North Korea’s former acting ambassador to Kuwait. File Photo by KCNA/UPI | License Photo

March 12 (UPI) -- A North Korean diplomat who fled the regime's embassy in Kuwait said Pyongyang is quietly working toward restarting diplomacy with the United States, as Kim Jong Un enforces fiscal austerity across the government.

Ryu Hyeon-woo, Pyongyang's former acting ambassador to Kuwait, said in a recent interview with South Korean newspaper Donga Ilbo that North Korea has not given up on restoring diplomacy with Washington.

Advertisement

In July 2019, the regime's foreign ministry inaugurated a new department, Room 612, exclusively dedicated to talks. North Korean diplomats Ri Tae Song and Kim Myong Gil -- the latter the former ambassador to Vietnam -- are in charge, Ryu said.

Ryu defected to South Korea in September 2019, but his whereabouts were not disclosed until January.

RELATED U.S., Japan need fresh approach to alliance

He said North Korean embassies have been operating under a fiscal austerity program since 2019. The policy led to the shuttering of the North Korean foreign mission in Peru, as North Korean diplomats were left unpaid for a year's worth of wages.

Some of North Korea's embassy personnel have been summoned back to Pyongyang after being charged with conducting "illegal business," Ryu said.

Ryu, once a trusted member of the elite, also told the Donga that North Korea made substantial profits in the weapons trade.

Advertisement
RELATED North Korea calls attention to 'comradely friendship' with Cuba on Castro anniversary

In Syria, which Ryu described as the "largest arms market in the Middle East," the former diplomat said Pyongyang made a "good income."

North Korea moved as much as $20 million using Iran as a transfer point. To reduce physical volume, U.S. $100 bills were exchanged into 500-euro bills, Ryu said.

North Korea has stayed quiet about Ryu's defection, but recent state media footage showed his extended family.

RELATED U.S. commander: North Korea posing 'persistent challenges' with weapons

Jon Il Chun, who once supervised the Kim family's secret slush fund Room 39, appeared on Pyongyang's Korea Central Television in February, about a month after Ryu's defection was made public in the South.

Jon is Ryu's father-in-law, according to South Korean newspaper Kukmin Ilbo.

Latest Headlines

Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us

Advertisement